He added that office workers “represent the first wave of a very substantial stratification of the density of New York City that is needed to bring this city back”.
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May 19, 2021, 2:36 p.m. ET
Still, people will return to a new type of corporate environment. Saks made changes to his office in the fall as he considered a broader return until the pandemic worsened. It has added amenities like a nail and hair salon and subsidized lunches to make life easier for employees. It is also pursuing a fully open floor plan where only a handful of people, including Mr. Metrick, will have offices. Other offices are converted into zoom rooms or personal conference rooms.
“It’s literally round tables with five chairs and people can sit down there with their laptops,” Metrick said. “It’s like a fraternity was in college. It’s a very social and open work environment. “
Mr Metrick, who has headed Saks since 2015, said the retailer hit a wall with Zoom, comparing its popularity to “when cigarettes became mainstream”.
“It wasn’t until a few years later that people realized, ‘Oh my god, this stuff is killing you,'” he said.
Mr Metrick said he disagreed with recent comments from WeWork executive director Sandeep Mathrani, who said at an event in the Wall Street Journal last week that the least engaged employees are the most comfortable from home work.
Like many companies with customer contact, Saks has a tight and collaborative work environment based on its business model. “It’s not that easy to draw lines about where responsibility ends and where the next person’s responsibility begins,” Metrick said. He was more concerned about the corporate culture than how hard the employees worked at home, especially when new employees came to Saks, he said.
“Zoom and the virtual world are a culture killer for companies,” said Metrick. “It doesn’t mean that the individual is engaged or not engaged, or working hard or not working hard, or being productive or not productive – but culture is so important to a company. And it is by no means good for a culture when 900 people are scattered and only exist in an intentional zoom world with no inadvertent conversation. “
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